By Larry Barszewski
A remodeling plan for Manalapan’s Plaza del Mar could lure more restaurants to the shopping center by expanding its covered space for outdoor dining.
The changes would be to five mostly vacant suites on the westernmost portion of the plaza at 250 S. Ocean Blvd., at the southwest corner of Ocean Avenue and State Road A1A.
Town commissioners approved a special exception July 26 that will allow contractors to demolish the interiors of five suites and push back the storefronts to make room for outdoor seating space. The suites are between the Art Basil restaurant, which already has outdoor seating, on one side, and the Thaikyo Asian Fusion restaurant and Tipsy Nail & Lash bar on the other side.
The suites are vacant except for a tailor in one of them.
“There are a number of vacancies in one section of the property that have essentially remained vacant for quite some time,” said Craig Tulepan of Kitson & Partners, the shopping center’s property manager. The vacant suites are “irregular in shape and they are way, way too deep.”
While the average tenant is looking for bays 60 to 80 feet deep, the ones to be remodeled are up to 110 feet deep, Tulepan said.
“What we’d like to do is redo these bays so that the depths are much shorter,” Tulepan said. The recessed storefronts will then provide room for outdoor seating, he said.
“We believe by doing so, it’ll enhance our efforts to lease these spaces. It will bring some new and exciting tenants into the center. We’ll be bringing some restaurants into the center,” he said.
There are no restaurants lined up to move in yet, Tulepan said. The changes are in anticipation of future interest. “Our leasing individuals tell us that we do have an absolute interest in the location,” he said.
The commission’s approval allows for the changes, but the plaza will still have to go through the town’s approval process for architectural design.
Unfinished home to seek 2 more years; mayor vents
How long does it take to build a house?
Commissioners aren’t happy that the one at 1140 S. Ocean Blvd. still isn’t finished five years after owner Mark Sherman first pulled a construction permit for the work in 2017. At their July meeting, commissioners were asked for a permit extension to allow a new contractor, Mauro Brothers, to complete the work within two years.
Mayor Keith Waters said the continuing construction situation was disturbing.
“The inability to put a house on the ground and have it up in five years is untenable in this community,” Waters said. It shouldn’t take more than two years, he said.
“We’ve been remarkably patient, remarkably patient,” the mayor said of the Sherman home. “I have taken a great deal of flak, personally, from people who have to deal with that, live near that and are part of that construction.”
Town Manager Linda Stumpf told contractor Tony Mauro, who represented Sherman at the meeting, that the commission could grant only an 18-month extension — and it would come with the same $63,283.50 fee that the town would charge if Sherman applied for a new permit that would be good for two years.
Mauro then withdrew the permit extension request so that Sherman can file for a new permit and the extra six months it provides.
The house is barely half-finished, with 45% of the work remaining. That amounts to almost $1 million of the original $2.2 million plan. The permit fee is based on the cost of what’s left to be done.
“They’ve had some pretty major issues with construction. That’s why he’s made the change” in contractors, Mauro said of the owner. “As you know, he’s not a full-time resident. He’s been trusting some people to manage the project and finish it.”
The new building permit will be the third for the property. Sherman had to pull a second one in 2019 after commissioners denied a permit extension request then.
“I understand the frustration,” Mauro told commissioners. “This project is going to get finished, I have no doubt. So, this is the last time you’re going to see us.”
Not everyone was convinced.
“He’s going to be back in 24 months,” Vice Mayor Stewart Satter said after Mauro had left the commission chambers.
“He absolutely will,” Stumpf added.
In other action, commissioners approved an ordinance increasing the length of time for special exceptions and variances. The time allowed to begin construction following the issuance of a special exception or variance goes from six months to a year. The time needed to finish construction increases from 18 months to two years.
The commission also approved special exceptions for pedestrian tunnels underneath A1A for homes at 1890 and 1900 S. Ocean Blvd., and for an oceanside beach house at 1900 S. Ocean Blvd.
It also is allowing street-facing garage doors at 1400 Lands End Road. The garage will be farther back on the property and the owner has agreed to landscaping to hide its view from the street.